The 2017 Inductees to the Higa Christmas Tree

We put the tree up last weekend, but didn’t have the chance to pick out new ornaments, as per our holiday tradition. We finally picked some new ones out Saturday and I am glad to announce their inclusion to the Higa Christmas Tree.

1First, let’s just address the elephant in the room. Yes, these three ornaments will be affixed to the tree by paper clips. Lynnette informed me that she returned the hooks to the ornament box…which lives downstairs in the garage. So. That wasn’t happening again.

Anyway, this is the third year Lynnette’s opted for an ornament featuring three penguin children playing together. As I look at this year’s ornament, I assume Cole is the penguin on the right because of the blue cap. That means Madison is the penguin on the left wearing the purple scarf because Madison is the queen of wearing unnecessary clothes and also Avery has to be the one in the train because she’s the queen of being places she doesn’t belong. Like atop the entertainment unit, right now, banging the glass door. Hold on.

2Madison selected this Minnie and Mickey Mouse ornament with a lever that allows Mickey to pop out from the inside of the snowmouse. I guess Madison’s now at the age where gimmicky ornaments seem like a pretty cool thing. If you’re wondering why she didn’t pick on that lights up or makes music, it’s because her dad is now at that age where he’s not going to spend $30 on an ornament. She looked around for a while before settling on this. We even popped into the Disney Store today to see if they had something there she might like instead, but she couldn’t find anything else. I totally relate because this was one of those years when I had a little trouble picking mine out, too.

3I went with this Soundwave ornament. It’s a display version because all the deadstock ones were sold out. Soundwave joins Optimus Prime and Megatron in my G1 Transformer Christmas Ornament Collection. Sadly, this ornament did not come with the bonus Laserbeak, Rumble, Ravage, Frenzy, or Ratbat cassette ornaments. Huge oversight by Hallmark. Anyway,  I missed out on Grimlock last year because Hallmark released Tony Romo as well, so that was a no-brainer. I’ve been trying to find the Grimlock in other places online, but they’re a little more expensive than I can stomach right now. Maybe later. For now, I can only hope for a Met or Cowboy next year, or maybe some super cool Star Wars character from The Last Jedi. 

4Beyond our fulfilling our Christmas tradition today, we also went Christmas shopping. I have to shout out the twins on being mostly well-behaved today. They didn’t run away, roll around in the fake grass, or stick their hands and arms into the fish water. They sat and ate patiently during lunch, and they kept the mess to a minimum, which is basically all you can ask. Also big ups to Lynnette who was even more alluring than usual today. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but it might have had something to do with her new sunglasses that give her a kick-ass-Linda-Hamilton-in-Terminator-2-Judgment-Day kind of vibe. That’s hot. I dig that. It might also have been the fact that she drove me through Kakaako and downtown so I could look for new Pokemon. That’s love, baby.

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Life isn’t a Highway, It’s a Race Track

***SPOILERS***

I saw the teaser trailer for Cars 3 months ago. It hinted at Lightning McQueen getting into a wreck and raised questions regarding the possibility that he would ever be the same again. I immediately recognized the parallel to McQueen’s mentor, Doc Hudson, and thought it was probably a good idea to circle back from the Mater-centric story of the second film in the series. Cars 2 failed to maintain the spirit or feel of the first movie, opting to remove the characters from quaint Radiator Springs in order to transport them to the world stage. It also shifted focus away from McQueen to Mater in a pseudo-spy storyline that somehow tried to teach the lesson that it is OK to be who you are and that pretending to be something you aren’t will lead to problems and unintended consequences that will likely become problems. That’s great, but I’d rather watch that exact plot and that exact theme as performed by Daniel Craig.

Cars 3 introduces Jackson Storm to the universe of the story. He’s a Piston Cup rookie with a noticeably sleeker profile than McQueen’s and he stands out because he’s faster than everyone else. The first laugh-out-loud moment for me came when the film broke away to a Sports Science-esque segment which used statistics to explain Storm’s incredible performance. He’s fast but he’s also efficient. Frickin’ Pixar fit Moneyball and analytics into a movie featuring a bucktoothed tow truck. Storm is so good that the other race companies begin to employ more cars just like him and all of McQueen’s contemporaries slowly retire or fade into obscurity. Lightning the last of a dying breed and he almost kills himself trying to catch Storm.

636327385871672961-CARS-3-a025-209bcs.sel16.245-RGBBut Jackson Storm is not McQueen’s antagonist in the way that Chick Hicks and Francesco Burnoulli were. Storm is just a symbol for the passing of time. He’s the hotshot rookie from out of nowhere come to take the racing world by…storm. He’s Lightning McQueen’s Lightning McQueen because that’s how time works.

What follows in the movie is an amalgam of sports movie cliches. McQueen has existential doubts about his ability to race at an elite level. He tries new, scientific training methods that are alien to him. There’s beach race scene that I immediately recognized as an homage to the Rocky/Apollo race in Rocky III. They even got the same colors in there. There are conversations about McQueen possibly retiring to become a spokesperson. As a point of comparison, McQueen’s old rival Chick Hicks has found a second act as the host of a racing show. I couldn’t tell if he’d changed his last name to “Bayless”.

That’s what Cars 3 is about: facing down mortality. The middle third of the film leans on McQueen’s stubborn refusal to accept something everyone else already knows: it isn’t physically possible for him to catch Storm. I could see the the plot twist coming – that McQueen would become someone else’s Doc Hudson – but I didn’t actually believe it would happen. Why would Disney/Pixar effectively demote the protagonist of a successful movie franchise when they didn’t have to? The cynic in me says “to sell more toys to a younger generation that isn’t familiar with the original film, of course.” I recall The Force Awakens and my beloved Optimus Prime’s death and subsequent replacement by Hot Rod (I hate you, Hot Rod!), the Autobot at least partially responsible for his demise. I hate you so much, Hot Rod. It’s probably that. But is a part of me bummed out that the writers of them film opted for realism rather than some kind of escapist, gimmicky come-from-behind victory for McQueen? Yeah. And it’s not even a part of me. It’s all of me.

IMG_4399I’m biased, though. Cars 3, is an animated film. The franchise doesn’t have to age if it doesn’t want to. That’s not a choice I have; they made the choice I wouldn’t have made. McQueen’s acceptance of his diminished skills made me wonder: Cars 3 is for adults, right? How could kids make all these connections when they’ve only ever been young?


When I pointed out the use of stats, science and analytics early in the film, Madison asked about them.

“What’s that?” she said.
“Those are things people use in sports now, to measure how good someone is, or when they try to figure out how to win,” I said.
“Oh,” she said.
“Yeah, what this movie is about is how people get old and are replaced by younger racers. Remember how McQueen was better than the King and Chick Hicks in the first one? Now it’s happening to McQueen. It’s succession mythology. Do you get it?” I said.
“Yeah. It’s just like technology,” she said.
“YES. Explain what you mean,” I said, all English teacher-y.
“Whenever technology gets better it replaces the old stuff,” she said.
“EXACTLY!” I said.
I raised both hands.
“It’s like your iPad,” I said, raising my right hand slightly. “And my iPad,” I said, raising my left hand much higher.
She cocked her head forward and dropped a patented Phil Higa smirk. Her iPad is pretty old. But we haven’t replaced it. BUT SHE RECOGNIZED A THEME AND BUILT AN APPROPRIATE METAPHOR! LOOK WHAT I HAVE CREATED!

And this is my second act. To impart knowledge. To teach. To raise my kids. I’ve known this since at least 2009, but accepting, making peace with it has been another matter entirely. I still struggle with it, trying to find a balance between what I want and what Madison, Cole, and Avery need. And because I am a selfish, ego-centric human being, this second act can never feel as important or fulfilling as my first. There’s so much that can go sideways at anytime. Parenthood is never portrayed as anything but staid and mundane, but in certain ways, it promises to be the most tumultuous experience of my lifetime. It is good to be reminded of this – even if via an animated film – when life feels so much like speeding through laps on the same track over and over again.

Signs of the Christmas Spirit Have Made Themselves Known

You ever have one of those days that start out so lazily and slowly that any kind of physical activity or accomplishment – no matter how minor – seem like majestic feats of productivity? Well, if you do, then you know exactly how my Sunday went. I slept in because I went out last night but more importantly because Lynnette let me. Big ups to Lynnette! We lucked out with the weather today because we scheduled Christmas card photos at noon-one and that worked out, too. Before all that, though, I spent the morning squinting at the television watching NFL Redzone.

5I was in the middle of an afternoon nap when Lynnette brought up the idea of setting the Christmas tree. I made some kind of comment about waiting until later in the afternoon so I could vacuum first (true) and some concerns about Cole and Avery’s interaction with the tree (very true). But 15 minutes later I came to the conclusion that if we didn’t set the tree up today, we’d probably put it off until next weekend, and maybe something comes up and it doesn’t work out so maybe our tree is only up for a couple of weeks and then that’s just a poor job of Christmasing, so you have to strike while the iron is hot before that ship sails. Incidentally, this is also the exact approach you have to take toward Mommy/Daddy special time when you have three kids. Bang that iron. Don’t let no ships sail. Word.

423ANYWAY, initially, it was all Mad and Lynnette, the Holiday Monger herself putting together the tree. Cole soon saw all of the pieces lying in the living room and behaved the same way he always does when he encounters something interesting for the first time: point and shout at it, then try to pick it up. He watched Mad and the Holiday Monger erect the first 2/3 of the tree and then tried to lift the final piece to give to them. He’s been pretty helpful recently; he’s been throwing things away and helping me load the washing machine. I’m cherishing this behavior this time because I took it for granted with Madison. Now she can’t help either of us out without an eye roll and/or sigh and/or growl and/or sarcastic reply. I feel like Victor Frankenstein must have felt when he finally understood realized that the thing he had brought to life was going to murder all the things he loved. But I digress.

Avery was surprisingly uninterested in the Christmas tree. She opted instead to get into some trouble while everyone else was distracted. Clever Girl. But she’s since taken to slowly prowling around the tree and removing ornaments then running off with them. She returns the ornament to the tree if Lynnette is or I am watching her and guilt-tripping her. We’re bound to find broken ornaments under the couch and some point. Or in Avery’s mouth.

The tree lights on are and neither of the twins is bothering the tree but I will not underestimate their destructive power. I don’t think we’ll be placing any gifts under the tree until much closer to Christmas. I have a feeling that Cole and Avery won’t be able to resist the temptation to throw or kick or stand on or bite or eat or kick or rip such easy targets.

1I want to thank Jaren, a former student, for taking our Christmas photos for at least the third time. They look great. Best of all, neither Cole or Avery accomplished their goal of jumping off of the cliff into the water below. It wasn’t for not trying, though.

Black Friday 2017: The World Before Kids

1Thursday, 3:00 PM

Lynnette dropped me off at the Mililani Walmart at 3, just after a delicious Thanksgiving lunch with my family at my parents’ house. The only thing I really cared about was getting a new phone. The offer was a $300 gift card with the purchase and activation of a new phone. I was eventually going to do that anyway, so I might as well get the free $300, right? I ended up being the first person in line. About 10 minutes into waiting, an associate announced that they did not have the iPhone X in stock. “Oh,” I said. But it was just as well. Yes, I showed up to Walmart hoping to score the iPhone X, but I had been internally struggling with this decision for sometime. The 8 is significantly cheaper and also it’s literally called the “8”. That is huge. Anyway, this stocking issue made it so that I didn’t have choose at all, which is great because traditionally, historically, I don’t make great choices in matters like these.

2Thursday, 8 PM

I returned to Walmart – this time with Lynnette and her cousins Charleigh and Jenn – after a delicious Thanksgiving dinner at Lynnette’s parents’ house (I made an appointment at 6 PM to buy the phone later in the evening so that I could have dinner with the family). It was then that we started shopping for our friends and family and, yeah, okay, also ourselves. But, but, but, Walmart paid for our Christmas shopping this year because of the aforementioned phone deal. I don’t always make smart decisions but when I do I end up saving a bunch of money on Christmas shopping and/or marrying a beautiful, intelligent women several leagues beyond my depth.

3Friday, 8:30 AM

Lynnette’s parents (Side bar: Lynnette’s parents just returned from the Philippines and they brought us back a bunch of goodies. Among them were not a small amount of bras and panties for Madison. “It’s a family tradition,” Lynnette said, trying to calm me. “Back when we were kids, whenever someone in our family went to the Philippines, they brought back bras and Soen brand panties for the girls. We would all have Soen panties for years after that,” she said. Since none of my relatives have ever visited the Philippines and I don’t have any sisters, I had no choice but to take Lynnette’s word for it. “Look, dad,” Madison said, holding up one of the bras. Curiously, Snoopy was embroidered on the left cup. “It’s the hook kind!” she shouted. I don’t know what the sound of my heart shattering is because Lynnette always laughs too loudly when it happens) came over to watch the kids while we shopped.

4Friday, 10:30 AM

“Hmm,” I said. “What’s that?” Lynnette asked while rooting through shoes at Cole Haan. “I’ve been looking around the store and it seems like a certain kind of woman shops here,” I said. She smirked. “What kind of woman is that?” she asked. “It seems as if it is the motherly type of woman who is a stylish professional,” I said. “Oh, yeah?” Lynnette said without looking up. “Yes, it is a very distinct demographic: elegant, urbane, sophisticated,” I continued. I would continue with variations of this joke the entire day. Lynnette played along the entire day. When we passed a mile-long line consisting of girls aged 13-18 outside of Brandy Melville, I noted that I hadn’t seen any females like that in Cole Haan. “No, we did not,” Lynnette said. “They are obviously not yet working professionals who value comfort over trends,” she said. She was right. And she’s the best.

5Friday, 12:30 PM

We stopped off at Alicia’s Market to pick up lunch for us and Lynnette’s parents. I cannot recommend Alicia’s enough. I had enough food for two meals which means I also get to eat Thanksgiving leftovers tomorrow without feeling like I’ve been eating the same food for three straight days.

Spending the day with Lynnette was a special gift. It happens so rarely now that we can just kind of move at a measured pace without worrying about our kids running off or tearing apart retail displays. The best part was walking slowly through the mall holding hands. I can’t remember the last time we did that. Thanks for that, Mom and Dad Pascua.

We hope you are having a great Thanksgiving weekend! We hope to see you out this holiday season!
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Mem’s Pre-School

Note: I was blown away by the outpouring of love and support for this blog. I wasn’t expecting all the kind words and well-wishes. I didn’t even know that some of you followed along! Your notes touched me deeply. Thank you.

Lynnette’s parents are on a trip so Lynnette’s been home with the twins for the better part of two weeks. She dubbed this period “Mem’s Pre-School” before it even started. She’s been sending me messages and photos in regards to their activities. I’ve collected some of them here and will also post both Cole’s and Avery’s reviews of Mem’s Pre-School. It should be said: Mrs. Mem, the principal, teacher, chef, and dean of the school, is this week’s outstanding educator displaying school spirit and personal pride.

School: Mem’s Pre-School
Location: Mililani
Mascot: Elmos
School Song: “Happy Birthday”
Motto: Thank God They Aren’t Triplets

IMG_4226Sensory Play: (Play-doh) Lynnette concocted homemade play-doh that’s about 150 times more effective than any of Madison’s homemade slime. She made a small amount for each of the twins to roll, knead, and handle.

Avery’s Review: I cannot believe Mem actually let me play with something that does not belong to me! It was so nice to squeeze the green, but I don’t like for my hands to get dirty. I like the green because it strengthens my hand and arms muscles so I can open and shut the kitchen cabinets faster and harder than ever before! I also like to put some green in Abby’s fur! But how come Mem won’t let me eat the green?

IMG_4232Emergency Preparedness: Lynnette simulated a high-danger, high-tension situation in order to teach the twins valuable lessons in responsibility, problem-solving, and making sure you know where the house keys are.

Cole’s Review: Everyone makes mistakes. You can’t just leave a naturally curious child such as myself alone on a stairway and not expect me to explore my surroundings  – especially shiny knick-knacks that make click-clack noises. I’m just like daddy: I know how to work things, but now how they work. It’s his fault. Thank God I had my Nanny. Oh, and this Emergency Preparedness was junk.

IMG_4230Physical Education (climbing): As part of a well-rounded education, Lynnette built her curriculum to include physical tests of strength, speed, and athleticism.

Avery’s Review: Because I am cute and the baby and Mem loves me the most of all the people and dogs living in this house, I can get away with things they cannot. Daddy and Cole and Madison and Abby are not allowed to climb on counters but I can. What I like to do is tippy-toe to see what I want on a counter, then I pull myself up and grab the what I want with my grubby paws. Two days ago Daddy was getting ready for work but could not find his hair product. He wasted 5 minutes looking around for it and it was probably under the couch covered in saliva and dog fur! Tee-hee! He probably even got stuck in traffic. Daddy is the best. After Mem.

IMG_4238Role Play: Lynnette likes to have the twins role play to develop their social skills. Because of the numerous birthday celebrations this past week, Cole now associates anything with frosting  – cupcakes, cakes, doughnuts – with birthdays. How do we know? Because as soon as he sees a qualifying item, he starts pointing and saying “haburday”. Apparently, Cole was role playing singing happy birthday to me through my ’17 AP Lit shirt.

Cole’s Review: haburday, haburday, haburday, haburday, haburday, haburday, haburday, haburday, haburday.

IMG_4236Physical Education (cheer): Madison owns one purple pom-pom and one gold-pom-pom from when she used to bring them to the stadium during Damien games. Cole and Avery were tasked to come up with cheers and choreography in support of Damien, playing in the D1 State Championship game this Saturday.

Cole’s review: *to the tune of Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like”* White jerseys fitted just right / Championship game under lights / Lucky for you, that’s what I like / Lucky for you, that’s what I like / That mauve and gold gleams so bright / Oh, what a glorious sight / Lucky for you, that’s what I like/ Lucky for you, that’s what I like.

IMG_4237Music: I would pay any amount of money for Avery to never slam another cabinet door.

Avery’s Review: Mem went to Costco and bought new batteries because Daddy forgot and Mem put the new batteries inside of the DJ station because I LOVE MAKING LOUD NOISES. But when Daddy comes home I put away the DJ station so that I cannot bang it and I have an excuse to bang the drawers and cabinets. Also, Mem is home so she can protect me from Daddy who is mean because he tries to take me away from the cabinets which is just mean because I would never take Daddy away from something he loves by forcing her to sleep in my room every night preventing Daddy from sleeping in the same room as Mem since August. Because that would be mean. Tee-hee.

IMG_4239Driver’s Education: On the real, Madison is 9 and Lynnette have I have had preliminary talks about teaching her to drive that have gone like this:

Lynnette: I think you should teach her to drive.
Me: Me? Why?
Lynnette: You’re a teacher. You’d be better at it.
Me: But you’d never admit I’m better at you in anything unless is something you don’t care about or don’t want to do.
Lynnette: That’s right.

Cole’s Review: I like to climb around in the van and press all the buttons. Sometimes I stand in the driver’s seat and drool all over it and the steering wheel. Dad hates that. One time, I climbed over the middle seats and sat in the back row and I wouldn’t come out when Mem and Dad called me. Mom had to climb into the van to get me because dad was either too lazy or couldn’t fit and bend his body like that.

Nap time: For some people…

IMG_4234

Thank You for Reading

Friends,

I’ve written a blog since the early days of MySpace. Back then, I wrote about popular culture and sports. Then Madison was born and my energies and thoughts shifted to her. During that transitional period, I was kind of sad that I could no longer keep up with movies and music and sports. I mean, I had been doing that for my entire life until the day Madison was born. Eventually, I came to see what my blog had become: a running diary of Madison’s life. It would allow her to know what her earliest moments were like for us; it would allow Lynnette and me to remember things we might have otherwise forgotten. I assumed that this would continue through the births and early lives of the twins. Like many, many things related to the twins, I made a serious miscalculation.

The best way I can explain it is as follows:

The past two  years have been a series of corners that we’ve had to turn. Call them whatever you want – breastfeeding, solid foods, crawling, walking, eating things off the floor – but every time we arrive at a corner and turn it, we find another corner somewhere off in the distance. I’d put my efforts into getting there, only to find another corner down a different street in the same town. “We just have to get through ____________________” Lynnette and I would say. And then we’d say it again.

Madison was an easy child. In retrospect, her 0-6 years were almost perfect, especially when juxtaposed with the chaos of Cole and Avery. Maybe I had more energy then. I don’t know. I just know this is hard. Over fall break I ended up grading essays at Mauka McDonald’s at 3 in the morning. Of course, I would never choose that willingly, but at the time, it was the best option available to me. I had to grade the papers. But can’t do any work at home. Ever. I’ve already tried and failed. Repeatedly. I knew that Cole and Avery would be life-changers, but like so many things in life, I simply could not appreciate the specific ways they would affect nearly every aspect of my life. I had an epiphany that morning at McDonald’s. I realized two things:

  1. The twins keep me so occupied that they’ve affected me in a fundamental way I didn’t even see. Because I am constantly worried about them in the present tense, and I always try to be aware of what I will likely have to do to or for or because of them in the near future, it is impossible for me to think deeply about anything else. Not sports, not music, not movies, not even the things we do as a family. Because where is the food bag? Is it almost lunch time? Don’t let Avery eat that! Get down, Cole! But thinking and overthinking things is who I am as a person. I’ve noticed that when I get home from an outing and want to write about it, I can’t because I wasn’t making mental notes when it was actually happening. I don’t dream. I don’t create. I am too caught up in all of the above. I am not the same.
  2. Things will probably go on like this for a while.

I always knew that this blog would end someday, but like so many on-going life experiences, it’s difficult to anticipate what that end might look like. Now? Now, I think it ends like this: I write when I can until I get worn out and/or can’t really think then consequently have nothing to say. We’re not there yet, but right now, in this moment, it feels like I am close. I  still hope to write once a week but I can’t even promise that.

All that said – and just in case I can’t get around to this later – I want to thank you all for reading. I used to write poetry and short stories but I need time and peace and quiet for that, and well, we’re fresh out of all that here. This blog was my last creative passion and the undefeated Father Time has come for that too. I have very deep feelings about this, but perhaps I’ve already said too much. Thank you for celebrating with us in the those good, good times. Thank you for commiserating with us when the room grew dark. Thank you for reaching out with advice, support, or just a note to say you enjoyed these stories. That was what I loved best: knowing you were out there, nodding along, laughing with/at us because you could totally relate.

Always,
Phil

1f

 

Avery Rio, Age 2

Avery Rio is horizontal on the couch watching some Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. She’s had a long day of turning 2.

42The Gravy Boat is still very much a work in progress. She had an appointment with one of her therapists today and we’re told that Avery’s making small strides in her development. We can see them, too. She remembers things (like Minnie Mouse) and recognizes people and places. Her vocabulary is slowly expanding, but blowing raspberries is still her go-to method of greeting and showing affection. It seems that more than anything else, the thing Avery loves is running in wide open spaces.

We picked her up a picture/word book for her birthday. She’s taken a few peeks at it and she’s fond of the food page, but she prefers her old maintstays That’s Not My Monkey and That’s Not My Puppy. I’m not surprised. Avery is a very particular kid. She knows what she likes and has no time for anything else.

I’m happiest about her increased willingness to play with me. Maybe she’s seen me watch wrestling too many times, but she knows that I’m the one who will catch her when she wants to execute high-cross body drops off her bed. Yesterday she stood at the end of the frame, waited for me to make eye contact, then made a gesture I’d never seen before. She got up on her tip-toes and waved her arms up and down – like she was making snow angels while standing. “Huh?” I said. Her eyes widened and her arms moved faster. “Oh, you wanna jump?” I said. I extended my arms toward her. She smiled, leaned, hesitated, then jumped off the bed. I caught her and rolled backward so as to land her on my chest. I wanted to ask her about her flight, but she was already squirreling off of me to get back on the bed for another jump.

3Here is a list of the things Avery is afraid of:

  1. The vacuum cleaner.

That’s it. That’s the list. Besides the terror she feels when I’m sucking up particles of toddler wake, she is basically fearless. You can see how this might be fantastic in theory. It is exhausting in practice.

And yet I find myself envious when watching her run, jump, and hurl herself into/off of/onto/atop whatever she’s decided to conquer on a given day. She literally does not give a [expletive of your choice] about anything other than what’s right in front of her face in the moment. It’s the kind of diem carpe-ing I speak of in class but never actually get around to for more than a few hours. I hope Avery grows out of it. Soon. But deep down, a sliver of me hopes she never does.

Happy birthday, Avery. I love you so.
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